Industry POV

A Digital Decade with Indian brands

06 Mar 2017

It’s a decade since I embarked on the journey as a digital advertising entrepreneur and over this period I have had the good fortune of working with over 200 brands and marketers on their digital strategy and marketing. It’s been an enriching journey to say the least. Over this decade, I’ve seen many transformations but in hindsight I can summarize them into 3 clear shifts in the marketers’ mindset.

2007-2010 - Rise of Engagement marketing on digital
2007 marks the beginning of the engagement era. 2007-2009 is when Facebook started getting popular and while today Facebook is the clear leader, in 2007 it was Orkut and not Facebook that was a huge success and it also had many brands on the platform leveraging it organically. But it was Facebook’s growth through 2007-09 that really got the big boys of advertising to spend, like Proctor and Gamble, HUL and Telecom players investing in Facebook pages, with time and energy rather than money, to run these pages.

Around 2010 most big brands had established a Facebook presence and started going after fans and organic engagement. It was a silly era of getting maximum fans but it was also the first time when brand marketers got to setup a real community with real users and real scalable reach in millions. This definitely excited brand marketers as never before did such kind of one-to-one or one-to-many engagement was seen by them on a real-time basis on any platform.

This was also the first foray of digital advertising into real brand engagement marketing beyond the ROI driven search ads or the visibility driving banner ads that digital provided.

2011-2014 - Rise of always on marketing for brands
Come 2011 to 2014 there was rise of platforms like Twitter and introduction of mobile based platforms like Instagram into the system. Also, brands realized that the game had shifted from campaign-to-campaign mentality to always on content. Brands had suddenly gone from being an entity that rented media space from advertising to a publisher that created its on media. Always on marketing brought its own challenges with real-time faux pas by brands as well as social CRM growing in importance with consumers starting to use the digital channels for complaints.

Suddenly digital was no longer just an advertising medium but a channel of constant dialogue between the brand and its consumers and this dialogue did not have a pre-decided script. More and more brands needed to face the new challenge of always on marketing and need for daily content, the struggle to engage and differentiate their own brand as well as the task to make sense out of all their investments into the medium.

2015-16 - Rise of Digital Branding & Commerce
2015 and 2016 have been the years the reach of platforms like Facebook and YouTube have scaled enough for them to be looked at as not just ancillary channels of brand building but as key drivers of reach, visibility and influence.

Infact with digital video consumption growing through the roof last two years have been significant in showcasing how long form storytelling content through digital can build the brand story with large audiences.

In addition to this the digital platforms have become a direct contributor to brand bottom lines with e-commerce scaling up via third party and owned e-commerce channels. Hence brands could not only advertise to get reach but now also draw a straight-line connection between their digital spends and net revenue effects.

Last two years clearly belonged to visual branding via video on digital and brand commerce growth.

Looking at the decade ahead

As I look ahead and crystal ball gaze I do see branding and commerce being two key drivers of digital focus for brands but as they do that a few new innovations and formats are likely to disrupt and create opportunities for them on digital.

First one being AI or Artificial Intelligence which will disrupt and redefine the way customer service and engagement around brands happen on digital. Second is AR and VR which will disrupt and redefine offline immersive brand experiences and connect the digital and the real world in a way that they will merge.

Finally, internet of things and the data it will generate will bring real-time micro multi factor targeting to digital platforms which will use programmatic to deliver really sharp and timely messages disrupting how advertising is targeted.

All in all, last 10 years will look like a small step compared to the giant leap that digital will take in the next ten years.

(The article has been written by Rajiv Dingra, Founder and CEO, WATConsult)